Silver Birch (Betula Pendula) is by far Melbourne’s most popular tree. They are easy to grow and if properly looked after they will grow quickly for the first few years, with a growth of up to 6ft per year. Silver Birch is very attractive in all seasons with soft green lacy foliage creating dappled shade in the summer. In the autumn the foliage turns gold and in winter you have a brilliant white trunk with red hanging branches.
Ultimately Birches don’t get too large when compared with Elms, Oaks, Ash, or Liquidambar, nor are their roots overly aggressive. They are quite shallow and generally don’t go for the pipes. Silver Birch can be used as a specimen or they can be planted in a clump of 3-5 trees. The advantage of clump planting is that multiple white trunks have a far bigger impact than a single tree trunk, and when birches are clumped close together the competition between the trees stops them from becoming too large.
Silver Birches are not expensive trees and they lend themselves to mass planting. Use as an avenue or screen along a fence, and plant Birch trees 2-3 meters apart. Ultimately they are a long-lived tree that doesn’t grow too big. They allow gardens and lawns to flourish beneath them and they allow plenty of dappled shade in through the summer and all of the winter sun as they are deciduous.
The secret of growing good fast-growing Silver Birch is to select young healthy trees that haven’t been in pots for years, plant them with no root disturbance, and have at least 4ft of grass-free, mulched, or cultivated garden bed around each tree. This should be well-drained; mound up the bed of soil if the soil is poorly drained. Keep the area around the Birch free of grass and use plenty of water in the middle of summer. Fertilize often with small doses of complete fertilizer.
Many trees and shrubs go in and out of fashion, but the Silver Birch is not a fashion item. It is an elegant tree that adds a touch of class and beauty to any landscape. The presence of Silver Birch in the garden does not date the garden.